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back to article Apple 'insider' explains why vid adapter hides ARM computer

Mac applications developer Panic has found something interesting inside an Apple video adapter: a computer. While trying to figure out why video output from some iDevices was so poor, the company cracked open a Lightning AV Adapter, a $US49 accessory that is sold as allowing Apple devices to send video to HDMI devices in …

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Anonymous Coward

GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

GPIB? KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Seriously: Nuke the entire site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure!

Let the 1980's have their technology, for the sake of all sanity! If you must do this, use LXI.

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Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

Well there's an acronym from the past!

I think the last time I used GPIB was in an experiment on my electronic engineering course round about 1984, and then it was on a Commodore PET!

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Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

It's still in quite widespread use if you look in the right places. While mass-produced stuff has generally abandoned it even in its traditional test equipment heartland it retains the advantage of being very easy to implement - it's the only bus that can transmit at those kinds of speeds while being built on a generic stripboard for example. If the device in question is a unique one-off that's a very strong attraction, since the costs of PCB design and fabrication can't be amortised over a large number of units. The relatively simple protocol (especially by multidrop standards) at both ends of the connection helps massively with those short-run costs too.

I work in just that kind of short-run embedded engineering shop. Several times I have sat down at 9am with a list of requirements and gone home at 5pm having designed a circuit, written the firmware and host software, built the thing and tested it. That's doable with GPIB. The next preferred option would be 10base-T, but that means careful impedance matching, PCB layout, a TCP/IP stack on the device, more sophisticated host software, etc etc. The unit costs will end up lower but you have to offset those against the design costs: that's generally at least a day's work and if the production run is three or four easier is almost always cheaper.

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Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

Stop wasting your (and the company's) time and money.

If the equipment has a serial port(they can be implemented even easier than GPIB) you can go directly to a Serial-to-Ethernet adapter.

Oh, and all the GPIB equipment you now no longer need can be sent to me... ;-)

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Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

Careful, it sounds suspiciously like you know what your talking about..... I used to nurse an old 486dx 33MHz with ISA GPIB card along until about 2004, when it finally gave up the ghost. Only thing that would talk to a spectrum analyser for testing EMC emissions. Looked for a USB to GPIB interface widget back after P.C failed, but don't remember finding one.

Happy daze......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

You can get USB to GPIB adapters from National Instruments, and you can get Ethernet to GPIB adapters as well (VXI-11.2).

But please!

GPIB leads to SCPI

SCPI leads to hate

Hate leads to suffering

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Anonymous Coward

Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

Can you hack one up with an Arduino?

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Happy

@ 'chap and Measurer -- Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

Ah, yes GPIB...My first truly embedded work was to implement a GPIB transponder using...wait for it...an Intel 8748 (second only to the RCA Cosmac as sporting the absolute worst instructions set even embedded into silicon).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: GPIB?!?! AHHHHHHHH!!!!

In a previous job in the late '90s, whilst 'decommisioning' an old Mainframe I came across several boxes of GPIB leads, (yes, the Mainframe had a GPIB interface card) was told to bin them with the rest of the garbage, but passed them on to a research group who I knew had a fair amount of test gear with GPIB ports. I was later told by one of the guys there that a rough estimate on the cost of purchasing the leads I'd given them was in the order of £4,500.

My next job I had the delights of administering a Linux box connected to a £750,000 'device' via our old friend GPIB, and, AFAIK, that beastie is still in use.

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Joke

Linux

Perhaps, just kidding of course.

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Linux

Re: Linux

Throwing the dogs a bone, or what!?

I fully expect to be running Light(e)ning Linux within the year, but strictly for shits-n-giggles.

Gnaw!

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WTF?

Are you kidding?

An overpriced laptop that needs an overpriced adaptor with it's own CPU and Ram to push out the same video that thousands of other laptops at less than half the price can push out over a $7 HDMI adaptor.

WTF?????

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Re: Are you kidding?

Nobody's talking about laptops here. This is about iDevices and the Lightning connector, as the article very clearly states.

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Re: Are you kidding?

My bad - I should have said:

An overpriced iDevice that needs an overpriced adaptor with it's own CPU and Ram to push out the same video that loads of Android devices at less than half the price can push out over a $5 (on Amazon) mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.

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Facepalm

Re: Are you kidding?

But you don't understand. By taking the HDMI connector out the iDevice and putting it in its own adaptor, Apple simplify the iDevice's hardware design and therefore reduce costs and so pass the savings onto... oh.

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jai
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Re: Are you kidding?

@OP - the point is that there is a single port on the iDevice, which is used for multiple functions, not just video out. one port, multiple adapters. not multiple ports, each with a separate adapter each.

you're obviously content to have a device with multiple ports, which you may or may not need. iDevices have a single port, which you at least need for charging and possibly for syncing. if you want to do anything else with it, then you buy an adapter, but not everyone needs video out. not everyone needs a GPIB interface. So the few that want a video out via cable have to pay a bit extra. the rest of us stream to our AppleTVs to get video on the telly, without having to pay even the $5 for the hdmi adapter you mention.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are you kidding?

You're getting Thunderbolt mixed up with Lightning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are you kidding?

> You're getting Thunderbolt mixed up with Lightning.

That's very very frightening.

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Re: Are you kidding?

"That's very very frightening."

You bar steward. You beat me to it. :)

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Re: Are you kidding?

He's just a poor boy from a poor family.

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Boffin

Re: Are you kidding?

and pass the savings on to people who don't want to attach their phones to a projector or TV. ie, most users. Seems sensible.

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Coat

Re: Are you kidding?

Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

Great. That's got the thread back on topic......

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Re: Are you kidding? (jai)

I've got iNews for you jai, Androids have one port that they use for multiple functions as well. Charging, USB connection and HDMI output... all on the same connector without needing an expensive cable that has a computer inside it. Now what was the benefit of all that extra iMoney you spent?

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Linux

Re: Are you kidding?

> @OP - the point is that there is a single port on the iDevice, which is used for multiple functions,

Sounds suspiciously like USB minus the whole "it's standardized and everyone else uses it' part.

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Re: Are you kidding?

So you think you can love me and leave me to die?

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Coat

Re: Are you kidding?

> He's just a poor boy from a poor family.

Spare him his life from these pork sausages.

(Sorry, that's what I used to think the lyrics were...)

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Re: Are you kidding? (jai)

Nokia had that with the N8, well before any Android devices or iDevices for that matter. In fact they had a lot of things well before Apple decided it was them who enlightened the masses....sorry Fanboys.

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Re: Are you kidding?

No, you forget that the Android device can, currently, push out HIGHER QUALITY video from a device that costs $5 on Amazon....

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This was really stupid

Having created a smaller port, they find they can't send 1080p video over it. So:

a) outputting from an iPad to a TV means horrible video quality

b) You can't use an old dock-to-hdmi and a new lightning-to-old dock adapter together, even though some Apple stores have claimed you can.

c) expensive adapters

I actually like Lightning on my iPad 4, and this isn't relevant to me since I don't connect it to a TV, but I bet this means Lightning has a very short lifespan-there's no way it'll be able to do 4K when that arrives.

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Re: This was really stupid

although it is a lightning port, not a video port.

In this case, it just happens to be used for video.

I don't have a ipad/phone, but I reckon a 10gb/s generic link with a few fixable flaws is better than a dedicated video link.

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Re: This was really stupid

a) outputting from an iPad to a TV means horrible video quality

.. which is why you'd simply push it wireless to an Apple TV. Works. Using AirParrot we do the same with Windows laptops..

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Re: This was really stupid

Yeah, but it quite clearly isn't 10gbps if it can't even stream 1080p HDMI, which is under 5gbps.

Indeed it looks like it can't even stream 1080p H.264 (although this might be an issue with the iDevice's video encoder rather than Lightning itself).

Clearly Apple's use case is iDevice -> TV via an AppleTV over AirPlay. How dare you deviate from that.

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@Fred Flintstone Re: This was really stupid

".. which is why you'd simply push it wireless to an Apple TV. Works. Using AirParrot we do the same with Windows laptops.."

Hold on, so instead of carrying around my Galaxy note and HDMI adaptor (£5 on Amazon), I have to carry around an Apple TV as well as an ipad?

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Re: @Fred Flintstone This was really stupid

Hold on, so instead of carrying around my Galaxy note and HDMI adaptor (£5 on Amazon), I have to carry around an Apple TV as well as an ipad?

:)

No, you're correct in that that would be useless for portable applications (my oversight, I tend to use a "normal" laptop for that which has a boring VGA adaptor). It's more for the reverse - we have a fairly large screen in our office which has become the major means of presentation since we stuck an old v2 Apple TV on it that someone had lying around gathering dust. Might as well give it something useful to do..

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Even more so

I don't expect my 32gb iPad to hold a 4k Video. On the other hand, it's an iPad 1 and I don't expect it to hold anything besides my manuals and textbooks :)

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It's the Apple iPi

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Linux

Hot dicketty...

If you daisy-chain them can you make a supercomputer? Running Linux?

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Alert

Re: Hot dicketty...

Now you've done it. It can't be long until some ubergeek reads that and builds a Beowulf cluster running on Apple interface adaptors.

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FAIL

Can anyone explain why ...

the Apple cable that can be plugged in any which way needs a chip?

Much better to use a standard connector ... but Apple couldn't screw it's customers USD$39 for the thing. ($5 in China)

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Re: Can anyone explain why ...

I can explain the theory. By reducing what the connector does to 'a serial bidirectional stream of data' you turn all possible external connectors into mere software extensions. Whatever you want to output must already be data within the device, so you export that data over the connector and let the cable worry about reformatting it.

In this case that appears likely to have put some sort of video codec into the loop between device and cable and leaves the cable having to decompress video and run a framebuffer.

So what Apple has done, in contrast to the single-port Android phones, is made no concessions whatsoever to the two or three cables it's pretty obvious most people are going to use in real life right now. I guess the calculation was that the chips that have to go into the cables are going to be very cheap very soon and they need a connector that they can stick with for ten or more years in order to ensure accessory lock-in. There's probably also an argument that they've overreacted to the old connector having long disused pins for Firewire, still having what will very soon be obsolete pins for analogue video, etc, etc.

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Paris Hilton

the screwing began much before this

"Contrary to the opinions presented in this thread, we didn’t do this to screw the customer. "

No, probably not with the adapter. You screwed the consumer when you made the lightning connector (or whatever hipster name you came up for it). It's a crappy connector (to hard to remove because it's way too tight and the part you hold is too small). It's not compatible with accessories (I know, there's an adapter for that, too, but how do all these adapters jive with the magical design philosophy?).

But the real screwing is that there's a perfectly awesome, widely used connector out there: the micro usb. I have dozens of those cables and chargers around, because all my devices use it. Some firm who never innovates, just copies (sam sung what?), even shoots HDMI over it.

Paris, because she loves what you did to her.

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a crappy fortube spent then

Using that hammer to crack the egg costs consumer a fortune.

You gotta laugh but hey!, it is the one and only so who cares?

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Re: a crappy fortube spent then

...and the Tuba Mackerel random post generator prize goes to... Alan Denman!

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Don't be silly

lightning is WAY better than micro-USB. A good connector OUGHT to be tight. And because of the nature of the uses put to it, often is the main thing holding devices into their cradles. And it works both orientations. Micro USB is extremely fiddly, hard to slot in, and has no holding power. As for speed, lightning is basically USB, so no pros or cons as far as that. Probably lightning will become USB3 at some point.

Yeah, micro-USB is a standard, it has that advantage. But even ignoring Apple's desire to keep it proprietary, its a way better connector for the situation.

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Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

Who to blame here: the screwer or the screwee?

Apple never held a gun to a person's head to sell a product. If you feel screwed then remember you lubed up and spread them.

Looking for someone to blame? Look in the mirror!

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Copy & Paste from /. ?

The exact same post appeared on /., earlier:

http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3509979&cid=43057675

It looks to me like some kind soul copy and pasted it to Panic's blog.

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Re: Copy & Paste from /. ?

More likely the other way round - the text is clearly written in response to something else, and it fits quite well as a follow up to the Panic post. It is posted in isolation on Slashdot without any context making the whole message seem a little out of left field. It would also be far from the first time someone has bulk copy and pasted something to Slashdot with nothing in the way of attribution.

I've no idea as to the respective time zones for those timestamps but is seems clear which was first in reality.

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So let me get this straight. Apple now gives Apple owners the 'honor' of having to upgrade the firmware on CABLES?!?! And worse, on a cable technology guaranteed NOT to become a standard.

Oooh, I feel so left out.....SUCKERS!

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong. The firmware is held on the iPhone or iPad, when plugging in the adaptor the iDevice uploads the firmware into the adaptors RAM and it starts working.

It's actually a very neat solution to a problem, but one that probably shouldn't have existed but I guess some people are still stuck in the cable era.

There are many other devices that used to do this, USB ADSL adaptors for instance.

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